Health Ministry ultimately responsible for West Dem hospital – Dr George Norton

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament Dr George Norton said the Ministry of Health is to be held responsible for the current state of the West Demerara Regional Hospital (WDRH) where the environment for the delivery of health care is not conducive and the Leonora Cottage Hospital where large quantities of expired drugs were discovered.

He said there is “no beating around the bush” when it comes to the question of who is responsible for the situations at the two hospitals.

 George Norton
George Norton

During an interview with Stabroek News on Thursday, Dr Norton also said that APNU had wanted to bring a no-confidence motion against Minister of Health Dr Bheri Ramsaran, because they did not think he was doing his work.

Minister Ramsaran is currently on leave and efforts to find the acting minister for a comment were unsuccessful.

Earlier in June, a team from the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services visited the two hospitals, along with the media, and made the findings of poor conditions in which health care is delivered at WDRH and shortage of drugs at Leonora.

What was supposed to be the morgue at the Leonora Cottage Hospital turned out to be a bond for storing expired drugs, while beds without sheets, messy laboratories and the conversion of various rooms into storage space for broken light bulbs, expired drugs and tables were among a number of problems observed at WDRH.

Dr Norton added, “the health system is falling apart and if we keep persons in place who are supposed to be and they are doing a bad job then people are going to continue dying. I am saddened with the situation. The big thing is that it is not getting better.”

WDRH is supposed to be the primary health care facility for persons in Region 3 but the general condition of the hospital changes this perspective. Over the years the hospital has not been able to meet the needs of patients and most patients who require critical care are transferred to Georgetown Public Hospital.

Last September, Dr Ramsaran had said he believed the hospital was doing better. In 2011 millions of dollars were spent on rehabilitation work for the hospital as part of the three-year plan that began in 2010. In 2011, WDRH was said to have benefited from a $43 million
project which “entailed the complete rehabilitation of the inpatient surgical block which houses the maternity ward, two surgical theatres, and the male and female surgical wards,” according to the then Acting Regional Executive Officer (REO) of Region Three Paul Ramrattan.

In the same year, another $25 million project was to be undertaken shortly for the complete rehabilitation of the Male and Female Medical blocks and a further $9 million was to be spent to rehabilitate the outpatient/accident and emergency department, the then REO had also said.

But “regardless of the amount of money that was spent to rehabilitate the WDRH we are not having that atmosphere there. We have a problem, a big problem. The more we go on television and talk about how much good we doing we are fooling ourselves. But while we fool ourselves people are dying and that is my problem,” Dr Norton added.

When asked whether the services offered at WDRH were improving, Dr Norton said things are not getting better and not only because there is a lack of personnel to work but a lot of the infrastructure was absent too. He further stated that conditions at the hospital are unhygienic and if a hospital is going to be deemed insanitary, “what else could you expect? Where are we going?”

During the team’s visit, beds in the Emergency Room (ER) at this hospital did not have sheets and an old curtain hung from a telephone wire separated the beds from the other section of the ER. A few wires were also hanging from the ceiling.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Social Services Indra Chandrapal, who was present during the visit, shared a different view as to who should be liable for the state of the hospitals when asked for her opinion on the issue. She said, “it boils down to the fact that the people in charge whether it is the administrator or Regional Health Officer they all have to accept culpability for the way things are. They have to manage much more efficiently and systems have to be put in place.”

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